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FAITH .'. .-. .-. .-. .-. 

An International Association for the 
support of Missionary Priests, Brothers 
and Nuns eng-ag-ed in Preaching- the 
Gospel in Heathen and Non-Catholic 
Countries .*. .'. .'. .*. .'. .*. .*. 



Annals of the Propagation of the Faith 

An Illustrated Bi-]\Ionthly Magazine 
with news of the Missions, published 
in various languages .". .'. .*. .*. 

For all information concerning this most truly Catholic 

work as well as the Catholic Foreign IMissions and the way 

to help them, address the Diocesan or Parochial Director of 

the Society where it is established, or the General Director, 

The Rev. J. Freri, D. C. L., 

627 Lexington Avenue, 

New York City. 




Published by 





The Society for the Propagation of the Faith is 
indebted for the reproduction of these letters to the kind 
permission of the Editor of the " Ave Maria," in which 
magazine they appeared January-February, 1905. 


THERE are few things in the Hfe of the Church more 
wonderful, few of its signs of continuity more strik- 
ing, than the admirable sameness, under all the accidents 
of time and place, of certain characteristics impressed 
upon it in its infancy. The very words of the Gloria have 
never ceased to resound for nineteen hundred years ; and 
the martyrs of every time and nation, of every age and 
station, have shown, under all the infinite variety of sur- 
rounding attributes, certain unalterable traits, which 
caused an eyewitness of the death of some of the English 
martyrs of the seventeenth century to exclaim : '' Humil- 
ity and obedience are the two infallible marks and the 
essential properties which distinguish true virtue from 
false. . . . There is an obstinacy which imitates constancy 
and paints in false colors all the other virtues, but can not 
imitate obedience and humility, because it knows them 

So in the records of all true missionary labors we find 
an echo, more or less loud and clear, but each invariably 
true, of that first record by St. Paul of his own work 
among the heathen. If, when reading the story of the 
death of the Blessed Gabriel Perboyre, we are amazed to 
find that the humble martyr of scarce sixty years ago had 
the supreme honor of a death — in its betrayal for thirty 
ounces of silver, scourging, and crucifixion — so like that 

4 A Sister of Charity in China 

of our Lord that it reads like a page of the Passion, so 
also is it not only in the life of St. Francis Xavier and 
others to whom the Church has given the glorious title of 
apostle, but in the accounts of the labors and journeyings 
of more than one missionary priest in every age and every 
clime, that we catch an echo of the famous Epistle to the 
Corinthians, that glorious opening chapter of a book not 
yet completely written. 

Women have also had, since the beginning, their own 
well-defined and contributory share in apostolic labor; 
and under the white cornette and grey habit of more than 
one Sister of Charity of to-day there beats a heart as 
valiant and tender, and a brain as fertile in penetrative, 
soul-subduing influence for good, as at any period of 
Christian history. It is our privilege to publish extracts 
of a series of letters, extending from 1890 to 1902, 
addressed by a Sister of Charity in China to her family, 
which occupies a high rank in the English nobility ; and if 
their perusal should chance to bring a glow to the heart, 
perhaps something like a blush to the cheek of the fireside 
philanthropist, these very lines convey the message of 
Sister Xavier, and her plea that the charity of America 
and England may lift the standard so long gloriously held 
by France, and which now seems falling from her hand, 
paralyzed abroad by the suicidal policies of recent years 
in all that once made the Gesta Dei per Francos. 

Ning-Po, from which the greater part of the letters are 
dated, is one of the chief towns of the Province of Tche- 
Kiang. It is about 100 miles south of Shanghai and 

A Sister of Charity in China 5 

has been called a Chinese Venice, situated as it is on 
an arm of the sea, which here becomes a tidal river ; 
and intersected by canals running in every direction, and 
malodorous in the extreme. The walls of Ning-Po, built 
of stone and very high, are one of the sights of China, 
encircling the town for five miles, and wide enough to 
admit of two wagons driving abreast on the top. Six 
gates give admission to the town ; and in the very heart of 
the labyrinthine Chinese quarter, far removed from the 
European Kampo, stand the convent, workshops, orphan- 
age and hospital of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent 
de Paul. They are the only Europeans who live in the 
quarter, where the roofs of the houses almost touch across 
the narrow streets, paved with cobblestones, on which the 
refuse lies ; for the Chinese throw it all into the street or 
the canal, until the pigs and other domestic animals have 
made away with it, or time decayed it. The doctor pene- 
trates into this part only when he is sent for ; and the 
orphanage is within the Kampo. 

The first letter is dated Shanghai, October 26, 1890, — 
at the long-desired end of the journey: 

" What we felt when at last we set foot on Chinese soil, and 
for the first time knelt before Our Lord in our new home, it is 
easier to imagine than tell. God grant we may do all the work 
that He has in store for us here, and win many souls for heaven !'* 

Sister Xavier describes the beauty of Singapore and 
the harbor of Hong-Kong : 

6 A Sister of Charity in China 

" The sight of the Highland tartan made my heart bound, 
though it was not the Black Watch. ... I was agreeably sur- 
prised with the Hong-Kong Holy Infancy. About three hun- 
dred children, from a few hours to eighteen or twenty years 
old, so clean, bright and intelligent. It was too amusing to 
see the little mites of six or eight flying about, doing their 
morrMng housework better and quicker than children many years 
older. Their embroidery and needlework are beautiful. At eigh- 
teen they are given high pieces of wood under their heels, and 
their feet are wrapped up tight, as without these precautions a 
husband would not be forthcoming. The missioners send the 
gentleman to call, the affair is settled; and these marriages often 
turn out very well, — the contrary is the exception. The diffi- 
culty is that the Chinese like their boys, and make presents of 
their girls ; so there are not sufficient Christian men forthcoming 
for the requirements of the maidens. This overcrowds the 
orphan asylums with big girls. A certain number get vocations, 
and after a long trial turn out useful members of the commu- 

'' October 30. — My destination is Kiu-Kiang, Kiang-Si. My 
business will be the hospital and dispensary, — for the Chinese, of 
course. It is three days' journey from here; we go up the Yang- 
tse-Kiang in a steamer. It is the house that is the farthest in the 
interior, in the southern division, and the nearest to the site 
where Blessed Perboyre was martyred. I hope we shall make a 
pilgrimage there. We start to-morrow." 

The next letter, dated November 15, gives a pretty 
description of the three days' voyage up the broad Yang- 
tse-Kiang, — " a river worthv of the name." 

A Sister of Charity in China 7 

" For many hours the banks could be seen only as a line on the 
horizon, the river being about ten miles broad. After a long 


Stretch of country, which was as flat as a pancake, we came to 
lovely scenery : mountains rising up one behind the other, villages 

8 A Sister of Charity in China 

nestling at their feet round picturesque pagodas, the river looking 
almost like a sea in the foreground, and the whole lit up morning 
and evening by such brilliant lights. . . . Kiu-Kiang was reached 
late on Monday night. The Sisters at the hospital heard the 
steam-whistle, and came on board to welcome us. There are four 
Sisters here — three French ones and myself. ... It is for the 
hospital and dispensary that an English Sister is required; as the 
doctor, Dr. Underwood, is a Scotchman, and most of the Euro- 
peans on the concessions are English-speaking. . . ." 

'' Every morning for a couple of hours the dispensary is 
thronged with every species of human misery, which tJhe doctor, 
a very kind-hearted and clever man, sees gratis. . . , The most 
fearful legs and eyes are what principally appear. Really, the 
unfortunate Chinese have marvellous powers of endurance. They 
allow themselves to be cut, their eyes to be turned inside out, 
with hardly a shudder. One man actually held the basin while 
the entire half of his lower jaw was being drawn, or rather 
broken, out. Operations take place nearly every day, and are 
very successful as a rule. It is terrible to see the misery and 
suffering around, — diseases brought on by their wretched food 
and filth. And yet their souls are in a worse plight. Nearly 
all we receive are pagans ; we have the consolation of baptizing 
those who are dying, and also any sick babies brought to the 

The next sentence alludes to one of the prevalent be- 
liefs in China — that Christians cut out the hearts and eyes 
of children and young people to use in charms and 
medicines : 

" Others are beginning to realize that we do not cut out hearts 
and eyes; but not much can be done to their dull pagan 

A Sister of Charity in China 9 

minds during their short stay in the hospital. It will require 
some generations of Catholicity to put religion into them. The 
hope of the mission is in the children, though they say the hospi- 
tals do more toward killing prejudice. . . . The hospital has been 
established only about eight years; it was a missionary architect's 
first trial, and, unfortunately, is built of wood, which lets in the 
Jieat in summer and every draught in winter. It is very 
picturesque, with its verandas, under which the Sisters sleep in 
summer, the heat is so great. At present it is like May or June 
in England. . . ." 

" We are just off to Benediction at the parish church, which is 
at our gate; and, oh, the singing! During the whole of Mass 
the uproar goes on. Everyone has his own key; he who squalls 
loudest prays best, and- some devout women keep up a high 
soprano through their nasal organ. The first Sunday I spent 
in one convulsion,- this species of devotion was so unexpected. 
The Chinese sing in this way all their prayers, and they seem able 
to go on like wound-up machines." 

" In the dispensary their mealtime is rather like the feeding 
hour at the Zoo. Now I am up to them ; so two faithful satellites 
barricade me in with chairs ; the assault is then all in the front ; 
and the poor creatures, their basins being filled, depart to their 
beds, where they devour their food with the help of their two 
little sticks. . . . Last year twenty-three thousand people came 
to the dispensary, and one thousand and sixty-three to the hos- 
pital, which has to have very elastic walls." 

The study of Chinese, without which ''nothing can be 
done for their unfortunate souls," occupies Sister Xavier's 
every spare moment ; and her " dear Chinese " are 
already verv close to her heart. 

10 A Sister of Charity in China 

" And, oh, the state they are in, poor creatures ! Sister Superior 
is longing to have two suits for each patient (the Chinese in win- 
ter keep on their clothes in bed), so that on their arrival they 
should be washed (every rag taken off them, and put away till 
their departure), and dressed in the hospital clothes. Every 
Chinaman has for winter a shirt, plain trousers and padded 
trousers over them, a paddled Tong coat and a plain coat on the 
top. They may not have a plateful of rice to eat — and often do 
not, — but they will have padded clothes, which it is said they put 
on- at the first frost and do not take off till the next summer." 

" Sister Superior was meaning to put off the luxury of cleanli- 
ness till she had the wherewithal ; but I told her to get the stuffy 
padding, cotton, and I would try to get the money. We are in- 
dulging in new padded counterpanes, in which they roll them- 
selves up ; and it would be such a pity to let them get alive as 
they will by delay. ... It was suggested, as no other means 
seemed available, to give the men clean garments under and over, 
and leave their filthy padded ones between; but at such a sand- 
wich I protested." 

" In this hospital the patients get rice and vegetables daily, 
meat four or five times a year, and fish on Sundays. In most 
hospitals out here they get the two last-named luxuries frequently, 
but here they can not afford it; and yet strengthening food goes 
much further toward curing these half-starved creatures than 

''March ig, 1891. — The Chinese are charitable to one another, 
and give beggars food and clothing for fear of a curse, of which 
they are terrified. Begging is a regular trade ; they have a kind 
of king, to whom some shopkeepers pay as much as ten dollars 

A Sister of Charity in China ii 

a year to keep his subjects from their door. Next to nothing 
can be done for the souls of that wretched class, except pop them 
into heaven if possible on their deathbeds. Of course they would 
willingly become 'rice Christians' any day. The country people 
are of quite a different stamp, and, though not converted, carry 
into all parts of the country — for they come from three or four 
hundred miles — the knowledge that there is a God who loves the 
poor and causes them to be cared for. If a missionary goes to 
their villages, he is well received." 

While the poor country people v^ere carrying this mes- 
sage of love and charity to their distant homes, the 
troubles of the summer of 1891 broke out. On June 8, 
Sister Xavier writes: 

" Before you get this, the telegraph will have told you if any- 
thing has happened at Kiu-Kiang. We have had three trying 
days. On Saturday the ' down-boat ' brought us the tidings of the 
tragedy at Wusiey, also a letter from one of the murdered men, 
showing how little on Friday evening danger was anticipated. 
Wusiey is three hours up the river; it is not a European conces- 
sion, so there are only a few ministers, one missionary occasion- 
ally, and one custom-man. . . . The riot began in the usual way. 
A Chinaman, bringing a little boy to the Protestant church was 
attacked and beaten by the mob. He took refuge with a man- 
darin, who was unable to protect him; but the man managed to 
escape. The people's blood was then up ; soon the Catholic church 
and every European building was in flames; the minister was 
beaten to death before his church, and the custom-man before 
the house of a minister, whose wife he was on his way to defend. 
The women and children fled to the Chinese magistrate, who also, 
unable to resist the crowd, hid them, threw open his doors, 

12 A Sister of Charity in China 

and about midnight smuggled them on board an up-steamer. 
The whole was the affair of an hour." 

" It is the first time since Tientsin that a Chinese crowd has 
murdered Europeans, and this has struck horror into everyone. 
The poor fellows were both unmarried, fortunately. They lay all 
Saturday exposed in the street, until the arival of H. M. S. 
Porpoise, with the Consul on board; and then they were taken 
up to Hankow. . . . Thank God all the city Sisters are here! 
There are three men-of-war — a French, an American, and a Ger- 
man, There may be burning, the people are so excited; but that 
is all. The Chinese authorities so far have behaved very well, 
as their place depends on their exertions. It is not so much 
the natives of the towns as a large band of rebels, who work up 
the rabble. All the various officers come in to cheer us up, and 
vow their devotion to the cause." 

"July 21. — Everything is quiet at Kiu-Kiang now; and there 
is better news from the interior, where the mandarins are doing 
their best to prevent and to punish. We shall not be certain of 
real peace till after September, when the examinations take place. 
At Nankin there will be about thirty thousand students, which 
means an increase in the population of eighty thousand, as they are 
all followed by friends, servants, and a kind of pedlars hoping 
to make a fortune out of such an occasion. It is the same in 
all the capitals of provinces, according to their size and im- 
portance. These students may not work, though they sometimes 
come of quite poor families. If successful, they eventually get 
posts and become mandarins; if not, opium or the river is a 
very usual course. They are often a riotous lot, and that is why 
these examinations are rather dreaded." 

A Sister of Charity in China 13 

" I saw a gC'od deal of tie mandarins vriiile in the citv. and 
they were Ter>- amusing. They are on ihe most iiiendiy terms 
with the Sisters. They enter ia the most easy fashicHi, seize 
chairs, and over tea and biscuits ^iscoss or^banage news, the 
health and ages of ihe Sisters, etc, etc . . . They are talking of 
buildii:g e rir: :: ides near the Sisters' house, to afford per- 
manent ; : 7 :: ; 5 : :~t naore French sailors are being bron^it 
here to ; t : j i . e a large room srt apart for European 


"August 6. — It is very gratifying to see how ansioiis the au- 
thorities are to ke^ our heads on ot:r sboolders, and at Ae present 
time there is not the slightes: : t : ai^tiiing being done to 
separate the two. Yes:t r : i - 1 . els — not Kiu-Kiang 

people — were seen han; : ; 1: : : 1- asylum; and five 

were can^bt fay tiie native iTt; t: : ire very clever. The 

Tao-tai (native magis:ri:t t^ ; rk by the 

presence of an Englis- 1: : 1 7 t : i: :: 1: : e latter is 
the same that was here 1: :.t : ~t :: : t : : :j::i it 

"The com—mier . 1 r: t ~i — 3: :t tI :: : t S'f:t-i 
It was he wh: : :; :\: y .::::. t ::.::. ^ ;;;ii.:;; :; : :.:z 7::-': 
*Doyonrwcr: : : : wiU be dcMie for yc j . L:ii:.r t: : e 

: :1 t 77 -::- ir full on the town. E ^r; : 1:: 

laoiTi T : i::t: to the teeth to await evti.r 

The Chinese : t: 1: : and the Taotai had only to 

shout to the : ^ : : r ihe orj^iaiiage diat they 

were to dispe: : t ; . : i : : : K - Kiang would be no more ; 

for them to fly, and his soldiers to be more than active. The 
European soldiers were de^ly grieved at not beii^ a": t: 
strike and give the Qnnese a lesson; but that would z.:.- t le- 
strpyed the mission for years, though for the moment it would 
have caused a irigh:„" 

14 A Sister of Charity in China 

"September 14. — Since our Chinese friends have taken into 
their heads to be so fond of setting places on fire, one is very 
slow to buy, or make improvements. Anyhow, before they 
began, a nice little washhouse with bath-places was finished, a 
good cement flooring put down in the hospital to try to keep 
down the damp. ... It is to be hoped that all will not come to 
an untimely end. We hardly expect it, as the ' aspic ' is mounting 
guard, and the actual Kiu-Kiang people have no real dislike 
for the Sisters. . . . There is perhaps some danger for the Sis- 
ters in the city, though our commander of the 'aspic' would be 
over the walls at the first sign of trouble : he even has ladders 
ready. Here I assure you there is no danger, except from fire; 
and that is not likely. Chinese soldiers, as well as a couple of 
Europeans, guard the concession at night. . . . Besides, could 
we be safer than in the arms of Providence ? ' Rocked in the 
cradle of the deep ' comes into our mind when we go to bed at 

- ^ ■ 

" The Central House, 
Shanghai, October 4, 1891." 

" We are expecting daily to hear of further trouble in the in- 
terior. Several hundred men from Hou-Nan, one of the worst 
provinces in China, are said to have entered the Kiang-Si, bent on 
mischief. Well, I shall see none of their doings, as I shall not 
return to Kiu-Kiang. Ning-Po is my destination, and Sister 
Visitatrice will take me there on Thursday. ... I am replacing 
a Sister who died last April, and who acted as English interpreter. 
We hardly expected two English Sisters to be left long together : 
we are precious from our rarity out here." 

" ' Maison de Jesus Enfant, Ning-Po,' will now be my address. 

A Sister of Charity in China 15 

It is the oldest Sisters' house in China : I believe they have been 
in possession over forty years; and there is still among them one 
old Sister who was at the foundation. They have all the works 
there : dispensary, women's hospital, catechumenate, orphanage ; 
and they also visit the poor. It is only fourteen or fifteen hours 
from Shanghai ; so if the war, which people declare is inevitable, 
takes place, the Sisters will have to abandon for a time some 
of the other houses, but not Ning-Po " 

" On our way down from Kiu-Kiang we travelled with four 
of the Sisters from Tchang. Poor things, they had rather a 
dreadful time ! The disturbance began in the usual way. A 
child was brought to the Sisters, ... a pretext to raise a tumult, 
as the parents came screaming about the convent, and this, of 
course, collected a mob. They first attacked a minister's house 
next door, which they thought belonged to the buildings, and 
then invaded the Sisters' house. The community were in the 
chapel with the children, receiving Holy Viaticum, though they 
had already communicated that morning. Strange to say, the 
rabble stopped halfway up the chapel, then rushed out to open a 
gate and let in some of their friends." 

" On their return they found that the Sisters and children had 
retreated into the sacristy; the superior, and the chaplain who 
still held a ciborium half full of Hosts, standing at the door. 
With infernal rage they flung themselves upon the altar, tearing 
down crucifix, tabernacle, etc., and smashing everything. The 
Sisters in the sacristy were attacked with sticks and stones, 
and their preservation was little less than miraculous .... The 
ciborium, strange to say, was never touched. The priest received 
some hard blows, and blood was streaming from a cut in his head ; 
but it is said that once or twice when blows were aimed at the 

1 6 A Sister of Charity in China 

ciborium, the wretches seemed unable to strike. The Sisters had 
dispatched for a mandarin, who at last arrived. He promised 
to care for the children, assisted them to gain the door, and 
then left them to the care of a few satellites. ... At last they 
reached the quay, and were taken on board the steamer. They 
were all bruised, covered with blood, their clothes half torn off, 

etc They had a truly wonderful escape. . . ." 

" Mr. Everard, the consul, seeing all flying to the boat, took 
up his quarters in his consular chair, determined not to leave. 
The mandarins were evidently afraid of the British flag; for no 
one attacked the consulate, though the mob was cheered on while 
pillaging other places." 

At Ning-Po Sister Xavier found herself in a more quiet 
district, the province of Tche-Kiang being more advanced 
in every way. Its inhabitants, after forty years' contact 
with the Sisters of Charity, treated them with respect, and 
allowed them, in all safety, to go about visiting the sick 
and baptizing dying infants. 


Many of Sister Xavier's letters are now written on 
board the native sampans, as she does her visiting among 
the riverside villages: 

" This river travelling reminds me of the picture of the Sister 
of Charity and the pig by the water side. ... It is much the 
same in reality, though the babies are not actually exposed to 
die among the rushes. . . . Babies are put outside the door to 
die — poor little things ! — as death brings bad luck into a house ; 
but more often their sufferings are summarily put an end to. 

A Sister of Charity in China 17 

A woman at the hospital here had drowned five of her children 
in a bucket — the wretch !^ — and with that, thought she had been 
most kind to them, saying death was preferable to bringing them 
up to misery." 

'' Wednesday Evening. — We have had a fair day. Twenty- 
four baptisms in about eight or ten little villages dotted among 
the rice fields. We take women with us, go in different direc- 
tions, and meet, the boat at a certain hour. They speak here 
quite a different language from the Kiang-Si, and it is rather a 
curious feeling being quite alone among a people one can hardly 
understand or make understand." 

" Everything is quiet here now, and likely to remain so till 
the spring, when connoisseurs in Chinese matters expect another 
outbreak. Poor people, I wonder when they will realize that 
missionaries, at least, come out here only for their good? . . . 
It is said the whole system of government and ideas will have 
to be turned upside down, as they are so imbued with the most 
absurd as well as the very lowest forms of superstition, carried 
into the most ordinary actions of life, — are so double-faced, 
and withal so proud, so full of contempt and dislike for foreigners, 
that a revolution is probably required to show them things in 
their right light. ... If the authorities do their duty, all is safe; 
but most of them are members of secret societies, and are torn 
between the conflicting feelings of dread of losing their situations 
and hatred of Europeans." 

The isolation in which the small band of Sisters lived at 
Ning-Po was extreme. 

" We are in the heart of the Chinese city ; never see a 
European except the missioner who says Mass, and an occasional 
one from Kampo or the interior. ... At Kiu-Kiang, lying on 


A Sister of Charity in China 

the highroad between Shanghai and Hankow, we knew more or 
less what was happening around us." 

The rare visitors brought disquieting news, and fore- 
casts which were to prove true ; though the word Boxer 
does not yet appear : 

" All say that a general, well-organized revolt will take place 
before long, and the affairs in the North are most likely the 
commencement. . . , The mandarins get double orders from 
Pekin, — one to be shown to Europeans and made public, and the 
other to be acted upon." 

A Sister of Charity in China 19 

In December, 1891, the charge of the women's and 

children's hospital is given to Sister Xavier, and she sets 
upon her new duties with characteristic energy. The 
hospital is in " true Chinese style — open wooden frame- 
work for windows, to be stuffed with rags on cold nights." 
Her superior, although her purse has been drained by the 
Holy Infancy orphan asylum, is having the dilapidations 

"I am telling her,"" writes Sister Xavier, '"'to get it done 
properly once for all, and I will see that she is not summoned for 
debt in consequence." 

The action, or rather inaction, of the great powers does 
not favorably impress those who are in the front of the 
line of fire, in case of disturbance. Sister Xavier writes 
(December 23) : 

" Matters have been coming to this pass since the Tonquin 
war, when, the Chinese feel sure, they got the best of it, and 
they despise Europeans accordingly. The way in which the 
disturbances on the Yang-tse were taken confirms them in 
this opinion, and made everybody foretell the revolts, which are, 
however, beginning rather sooner than expected. . . . All were 
deeply disappointed that no blow was struck, to show the Chi- 
nese that the powers were in earnest; and it was on England 
they all depended, — or at least principally so. The French, of 
course, are the protectors of the missions. . . . But not much 
assistance can be expected from France, whose conduct with 
regard to religion is well known to Chinese authorities, and does 
untold harm. . . ," 

20 A Sister of Charity in China 

The New Year dawned amid these clouds ; but an event 
full of promise for the cause of religion is, nevertheless, 
recorded in the first letter of 1892 : 

" January 18. — A new Order of Chinese Sisters is to be 
founded here on January 25. It is to be composed of virgins 
who are now scattered over the vicariate ; they are to make a 
two-years' novitiate, during which they will also have to study; 
afterward they will make their vows, and then go into the in- 
terior as schoolmistresses, catechists, etc., etc. The priests at 
Shangai have an Order of the same description, founded for 
some time ; and it is doing much good. The Sisters return to 
Tgi-ka-way, which is the mother-house, for a month every year. 
Many missioners say there is nothing like women for propagating 
the Faith. They are sometimes now sent into the villages to 
sound the people, and feel the way before anything is done ; 
for the missionaries do not go unless there are some who are 
catechumens, or who wish to be so. Sometimes the catechists are 
most successful, especially where Protestants have begun to 
give some idea of religion, for, while these make very few 
converts, they seem to pave the way for Catholics. One catechist 
in the interior has in a short time gathered together as many 
as a thousand catechumens, who as yet have never seen a priest, 
the nearest one being five or six days' journey from them." 

Besides the new Order for virgins, a work for widows 
is founded ; and the next letter, while telling of it and of 
the coming of the Christians from the interior for the 
Sacraments after several days' journey, takes up a theme 
which is to be found in most of the subsequent letters, — 
a note of compassion for the hard-worked priests of the 

A Sister of Charity in China 21 

province ; a cry, almost passionate sometimes in its 
energy, for more laborers in this ripening harvest. 

" Ning-Po, January 2g, i8g2. ... It is a real comfort to do 
something for those poor priests in the interior. Some come 
here for rest, looking such wrecks. Of three on the other 
side of the street, one receives the last Sacraments to-day; 
another looks more like a corpse than a man; and the third 
can neither eat nor sleep, but always has a racking headache. 
The last two are quite young. The great trials that they have 
to undergo and the innutritious food, soon tell upon them ; 
though, of course, they hold on as long as possible. They look 
upon this place as a sort of mother's home, and are nearly all 
from France." 

" The whole country is now upside down in consequence of the 
Chinese New Year. We can not go out between January 20 and 
February 20, as it is considered unlucky to touch medicine, 
and each day has its own particular diabolical practice. We are 
glad of the time to get the hospital and dispensary in order, as 
the rest of the year is rather a rush." 

It is said of Blessed Gabriel Perboyre that shortly after 
his martyrdom he appeared to his brother, saying : " My 
hands are full of graces and no one asks me for them." 
By the Christians in China his memory is held in vener- 
ation and. his intercession invoked, as the following inci- 
dent testifies : 

" Ning-Po J March 30, igo2. — The Chinese priest I mentioned 
the day he received the last Sacraments is now up, and, though 
very weak, goes about. When the end was evidently near and 
all the symptoms of immediate death were showing themselves, as 

22 A Sister of Charity in China 

a last resource he was wrapped in the cloak of Blessed Perboyre 
and a relic put upon his breast. Since then he has rallied in 
a wonderful manner; and, though not actually cured (for he 
remains weak, and at times has a good deal of pain), still, not 
to be dead, but to be as he is, is a perfect miracle. He would be 
a great loss to the bishop, as he is very European in his ideas, 
and able to cope with all the mandarins in Chinese business. . . ." 

Many strange things come under the observation of the 
Sisters of Charity in China. Cases of possession are 
occasionally brought to the hospital, — " as their people are 
often glad to get rid of them." And Sister Xavier de- 
scribes the horrible voluntary torture of the penitents in 
the processions in honor of their deities, 

" Having their arms transfixed by a small iron bar, to which 
hangs a weight, to cause extra agony. . . . And, strange to say, 
the ghastly wounds in their arms heal very quickly. They have 
an extraordinary system of mutilating themselves. A bonze 
has been coming to the dispensary for some time, having chopped 
his left hand, probably to end a quarrel; though they generally 
content themselves with part of a finger. One woman took a 
knife, chopped off her hand, and brought it to her husband 
to pay him out for abusing her; though the general rule is to 
take opium. Then they know that the unfortunate husband is 
simply beggared by all the relatives of the deceased. A workman 
was found dead one morning in his master's house ; it was sup- 
posed he had quarrelled or been rebuked, and so had taken 
opium. Numberless relatives cropped up, as is usual on such 
occasions ; the master was called upon either for a large sum 

A Sister of Charity in China 23 

or for the life of his eldest son. It is useless to attempt to 
obtain justice, as that is given to the highest bidder, and there- 
fore brings ruin with it ; so it is best to submit, and pay to one 
set of people rather than to two." 

From time to time the practice of infanticide among the 
Chinese is denied, and said to be a made-up story of the 

" It is useless, however," says Sister Xavier, " to have re- 
course to denying a fact. . . . Until they [the babies] are a month 
old they have no souls, so to kill them does them no harm and 
saves them from much misery. One poor little baby we met 
when out the other day was wailing in a corner : the mother 
declared : * Why, that baby costs a penny a day to feed ; so now 
I let it cry away, and it has gone to skin and bones.' She would 
not give it to us ; so baptism at least secured for it a happy 
eternity after such a little life of suffering. One young mother 
had a little boy a fortnight old for sale : her husband, an opium- 
smoker, had sold the first and kept the money, so she meant to 
be beforehand with him this time. , . ." 

" The children they wish to bring up they are foolishly fond 
of, giving in to their every whim, so that the young tyrants 
rule the house. In most homes, however, you see a poor down- 
trodden little girl, the future daughter-in-law, bought as a baby 
and treated as the family slave until her wedding-day, if she sur- 
vives so long. One was thrown at our door last week, really 
eighteen, the size of a child of ten, unable to walk, black and 
blue, with a hole on the top of her head from being beaten in 
with a stone. Poor little creature ! . . ." 

" When one thinks, however, of these people being pagans, 
and of the cruelty one finds sometimes even in our Christian 

24 A Sister of Charity in China 

countries, one can not be surprised. We get accustomed to 
expect very little, and in consequence when traits of devotion 
and gratitude do show themselves they are doubly welcome. . . . 
Yet how fond one gets of them in spite of dirt, etc. ! But, of 
course, that is part of our vocation. Anyhow, I am infinitely 
happier surrounded by my poor Chinese with all their sores and 
misery, physical and moral, than in the smart European hospital 
at Shanghai. . . . Life will not be long enough to thank God 
for so great a grace." 

" It is delightful here, seeing the mission work so full of life 
and vigor. ... I defy any Catholic in Europe or America to 
know all by heart an equal number of litanies, prayers for 
visits to the Blessed Sacrament, for all the feasts of the year, 
for every kind of occasion, each with a particular chant, — generally 
women and men alternately. . . . To-morrow, Pentecost, , there 
is Confirmation; and during all the week a retreat for cate- 
chists has been going on. The great cry is for catechists and 
priests, — the first to go and prepare the way, the second to fol- 
low when a band of catechumens is collected. The harvest 
does seem ripe, if only there were more laborers ! . . ." 

" Ning-Po, September 20, 1892. — We are having a roasting 
summer. People say that for years it has not been so hot. 
We were a couple of months without rain; rivers were dried 
up and drinking-water was most precious. Fasts were prescribed 
by the Tao-tai; pigs were not allowed to be killed. The Tao-tai 
had to go down on both knees before any reptile caught in a 
spring, in order to make the divinities propitious. Daily we met 
processions of idols all over the town. Meanwhile we were reap- 

A Sister of Charity in China 25 

ing a harvest of souls, for the poor babies could not support the 

long-continued heat. Over thirty, forty, or even fifty baptisms 
in a day, or often in an afternoon. . . . Really, God's providence 
is wonderful ! Over and over again apparent chance leads us 
to some out-of-the-way nook or hamlet, not visited for ages, to 
find children simply waiting to die, dressed out in their smartest 
clothes according to Chinese fashion; so that we almost hurry 
out of the house not to be present at the last moment, our work 
being done and the soul being safe." 

" On more than one occasion the Sisters have been hailed by 
the father, who declared that his child had been dead for 
hours and just come to life: could it be saved? Of course the 
little one had had a long faint or stupor before drawing its final 
breath, which Our Lord seems to have delayed for hours, until 
the waters of baptism had flowed over its head. We don't 
care to have such cases often. Though the child may be at death's 
door, if we have entered the house and looked at it, we have 
killed it. If we tell parents there is no hope, it dies because we 
have decreed it so, and therefore at our next visit the babies 
are all hidden away. We prefer that the children should lin- 
ger, or revive for a time." 

" The other day regular tropical torrents of rain made us take 
refuge in a den and gave us time to take an inventory. It was 
about half the size of our study and made two rooms. In the 
parlor were two tables, three benches, a heap of every conceiva- 
ble kind of rubbish, a grandmother, a mother, two children, five 
hens, and eight pigs. Through the litter we made our way to 
the youngest baby, who ere now has taken flight from a pigsty 
to its celestial abode. . . ." 

26 A Sister of Charity in China 


Evident traces of early Christianity are by no means 
rare in China. In one locaHty is an old statue of the 
Blessed Virgin with the Holy Child in her arms, which 
has been worshiped as a goddess from time immemorial ; 
and in a letter dated " Afloat, October i6, 1892," we 
read : 

" In one place a picture of our Blessed Lady is kept among a 
band of pagan families with the greatest reverence and devotion. 
The pagans declare that the Holy Mother of God, as they call 
her, has worked many wonders for those who have prayed to 
her ; and the picture is kept in the family that has last received a 
mark of her protection. The catechist seized the opportunity 
to explain who Our Lady really was. The pagans were much 
impressed and begged for books to learn more about the Faith. 
A scholar who came to the Sisters at Hankow to be cured of 
opium-smoking declared that a similar picture had been treasured 
up in his family for nine generations. . . ." 

" In Southern Kiang-Si, Bishop Coquet is perfectly crushed 
by all he has to go through. Chapels seem to be erected only to 
be burned. Really, ours seems to be the most consoling part of 
the work, — paddling up and down the rivers gathering in our 
harvest of souls. . . . The roll of the punt, and jerks and bumps 
against bridges, etc., do not improve the aspect of my epistle; 
but in the house we never have a moment. ... I have a dream — 
not yet mentioned except to the Sister whose office it is to visit 
the poor,' — and that is to get a boat for ourselves, keeping a 
man who could paddle the boat, and work the garden when at 
home. It would cost much less than what is paid now four or 

A Sister of Charity in China 27 

five times a week for a day in the villages. ... At present we 
often have a quarter or half an hour's walk to get the boat, and 
daily quarrels between the men and our women as to the price. 
Sometimes they won't row; occasionally they leave us in the boat 
while they jump off to have a few sharp words with an unamiable 
passer-by. . . . They could bring us back almost to our very 
door; for Ning-Po, in fact all the Tche-Kiang, is very like Venice, 
so far as canals and rivers are concerned." 

The extremes of heat and cold are great in China. We 
have had the scorching arid heat of summer described in 
these letters. This is what Ning-Po had to offer the fol- 
lowing January : 

" The milk in the kitchen, the only place where there is a fire, 
was a hard, unbreakable block; the ink -froze on one's pen; 
even the bread was a frozen mass. The dispensary work was 
very trying. The medicines were blocks of ice, and had to be 
kept in hot water, freezing if taken out for only a few min- 
utes. . . . What the poor must have suffered in their hovels, 
open to the cutting wind in every direction, is indescribable. . . . 
The priests who were out on mission work had a hard time, and 
experienced great difficulty in getting about with the rivers all 
frozen. They bring back, however, most consoling news of the 
progress religion is making in every direction. Catechumens are 
coming iruby hundreds, and seem, on the whole, to be a promising 
set. . . ." 

The needlework of the Chinese women and children is 
of surpassing beauty, and is one of the chief means em- 
ployed by the Sisters to help their poor neighbors. We 
can imagine, therefore, with what a heavy heart Sister 
Xavier wrote February 12, 1893 : 


A Sister of Charity in China 

" We are under the sad necessity of refusing work from 
having no sale for the embroidery. It has struck us that America 
might be a good place to dispose of some. Americans admire 
it very much. . . ." 


"At Hankow the Sisters are rejoicing at a really wonderful 
cure. A military mandarin, twenty-six years of age, son of a 
mandarin of high position, was terribly injured by an explo- 
sion of gunpowder; arms, chest, back, face — the left arm 
especially — were in a frightful state. . . . Five days after this they 

A Sister of Charity in China 29 

sent for the Sisters, who found the poor fellow in a pitiable con- 
dition, flesh and clothes all matted together; nothing had been 
done since the accident. . . . The Sisters had him brought to 
the hospital and wrapped him up in a piece of Blessed Perboyre's 
cloak (his sister's greatest treasure). The pain from that moment 
ceased; he has become gradually better, and at present though 
still with the Sisters, there is hardly any sign left of the accident. 
His father, half crazy with joy, is loading the Sisters with pres- 
ents. The Tao-tai brought them himself (one of the greatest 
marks of honor that can be bestowed in China) ; and some 
characters traced by his orders and sealed with his seal are to 
be placed in the dispensary and over Sister Perboyre's door. 
' Skilful hand, mother of the unfortunate,' is the translation. 
It is hoped that this cure will do much toward killing preju- 
dice. . . ." 


A letter of July, 1893, makes the first allusion to the 
projected workrooms for Christians and pagans together, 
— rooms which are now a happy reality. 

" You little realize what a boon it will be to these poor people 
and to the mission if we succeed in obtaining a permanent 
sale for their embroider}-. Most of the Christians are very poor. 
For a year or so they worked for a shop in Paris, and during that 
time their homes were a little less comfortless and they had 
enough to eat. Pagans worked as well, and there were dreams 
of a workroom. Alas ! all fell to the ground last winter. The 
Chinese can imitate anything they see, so with good models they 
would succeed." 

" The Holy Infancy is our principal work. The children are 
brought to us when only a few hours old, usually because the 

30 A Sister of Charity in China 

parents are too poor to rear them and do not quite care to kill 
them, — a very common practice, especially when there are too 
many girls in a family. . . . We put the mites out with nurses 
for two or three years ; they are then brought in here and kept 
till "a marriageable age — say sixteen or seventeen years. They 
meet their bridegroom at the altar steps for the first time. We 
see the poor creatures peeping over their shoulders to get an 
idea of the man they are to be united with for life. . . . Alto- 
gether, the Chinese women have a sad life of it until they have 
a son ; then they are respected and called by their son's name. . . ." 

" We often go to a place, three hours' river boating from here, 
which always reminds me of Killarney. A lovely lake, winding 
through most picturesque mountains, which come down to the 
water's edge. . . . The people are simple countryfolk, not the 
least like the turbulent race on the Yang-tse River. . . . The 
outbreaks in Mongolia two years ago and last year have done 
more good than harm here. On all sides catechumens are beg- 
ging for instruction, . . . and in real earnest too ; for they have 
much to suffer from friends and relations. . . . The missionaries, 
too, are very strict, so as to have Christians with sufficient grit 
in them to stand persecution. . . . The great outcry is for priests. 
In this large vicariate there are only eighteen ; and they hardly 
know how to face the huge amount of work they have to do. 
Most of the Christian centers can be visited only once a year." 

" Oct. 17, i8gs. . . . The missionaries have suffered a good deal 
lately. They have come from the interior, some of them looking 
like walking specters ; and one, alas ! never arrived at all. He 
succumbed at Hankow, having had a long six days' journey in a 
little boat, where he was placed, after receiving the last Sacra- 
ments at Kintchou, in the hope of reaching medical aid in time 

A Sister of Charity in China 31 

to be saved. He was only forty, one of the most valuable men 
in the vicariate, as he was such a good Chinese scholar, and 
overflowing with zeal and energy. He was doing wonders in 
a huge district. He worked with three young Chinese priests. 
Hundreds of catechumens, it seems, were flocking into the Church. 
The great cry is for priests and catechists. . . ." 

" It seems as if Almighty God wishes to show how He can do 
His work without anybody. Formerly Christians were so few, 
conversions so difficult, that the priests more than sufficed for 
the work. Now that thousands are begging to be enrolled, it 
is overwhelming. In one town in the Taitchou district, where 
formerly there was hardly a Christian, now over three thousand 
are studying; in another, seven hundred have destroyed their 
idols and been inscribed; and it is the same in all directions. To 
face all this work there is one European and one Chinese 
priest. . . . These good missionaries must always be prepared for 
death, as often a confrere will have several days' journey to reach 
a sick priest. Father Prizzi died with his Christians around 
him suggesting the ejaculations he had generally used when at- 
tending their dying friends. . . ." 

" Ning-Po, Jan. i, 1894. — Nearly every day now women come 
in for work; and yesterday, to our joy, a pagan woman came 
to ask to stay a little time in our house, to learn, — a very great 
step, if you knew the terror they have of spending a night in 
the house, even those who receive us most cordially at home. . . . 
You would be amused if you saw how they come trembling into 
the house the first time, peeping about to make sure we are not 
stealing their souls from them; for they are firmly convinced 

32 A Sister of Charity in China 

that we can deprive them of their souls by looking at them, 
and that yet they can go on living. . . . Poor people, they are 
so full of these absurd beliefs and traditions, it is a real miracle 
of grace when they are converted. . . . And this miracle is being 
worked, without any apparent human means, in all directions. 
The catechumens are reckoned to number between eight and 
nine thousand. ..." 

" To return to our Ning-Po work. Fr. Ferrant, the superin- 
tendent of the business, hopes to open some kind of makeshift 
workroom at once; as funds come in, things will settle them- 
selves. ... I am glad that the scheme of making our own satin 
is approved of. It could also be begun on a small scale — a few 
looms, sixty dollars each, in what in Europe would be called a 
shed. . . . We have the land for mulberry trees : large tracts 
were bought during the rebellion of 1861. The trees can be pro- 
cured in any quantity from the Christians in Tso-fou-Pang, where 
there are forests of them, and the inhabitants live by their silk- 
worms. Perhaps after a time this scheme will be carried 
out. . . ." 

"Feb. 2S, i8g4. ... It is strange how the Faith is spreading 
in the province ; and that without the teaching and preaching 
which have to be carried on in most pagan nations. . . . Some- 
timxcs there are striking examples. . , . One pagan, who acts as 
schoolmaster and doctor on a small island off the coast, went to 
visit a neighboring island — Ninnay. He met with the Christian 
catechist, and after a time became a catechumen. Shortly after- 
ward he had a terrible trial, — his eldest son, though quite a boy, 
was intentionally killed in a quarrel. In China the eldest son — 
the ako, as he is called — is the idol and hope of the entire family. 
All pressed the father to avenge himself in the customary way — 

A Sister of Chariu^ in China 33 

min the family of tie murderer and destroy their hoase. The 
man refused, — he was a Christian, would not seek rcTcnge but 
would leave the matter in the hands of God. A few days later 
the eldest son of the murderer was killed by an accident; shortly 
afterward his second son suffered the same fate, and his third 
and last was brought to death's door by a violent le . er. Z'zz 
schoohnaster-doctor was asked if he would come and try to save 
the only remaining boy. ' Of course,' he answered, ' I will come 
and cure him ' ; and so he did. All the pagans are so astounded 
that nearly the whole island are now catechumens, and our friend 
the schoolmaster has just arrived for final instruction before 

"This is the way that they are drawing one another into 
the Church, — ^mostly simple village folk or fishermen. The cry 
on all sides is for priests. The catechists are doing wonders, but 
what can a mere handful of priests do for these thousands of 
catechumens ? Each one is doing the work of fire, but how much 
remains undone I Bishop Reynaud does not know which way to 
turn to meet the calls made on all sides. He has at preser: : 
nineteen priests, all told; and, to add to his troubles. D^:. :/. 
tbues its work among them. One received Extre: t V : ::: 
to-day; three or four more seem to have one foot in the grave, 
but they still remain at their posts." 

" It is a glorious work for those who hunger and thirs: after 
souls. They can come and gather in the harvest which ::her5 
have sown in suffering and disappointments of every descri;:::r 
The Faith is spreading fast^t in districts where miss:::.i:.ti 
now dead, had spent their lives in most ungrateful toil without 
any apparent result." 

34 A Sister of Charity in China 


The next letter, probably in answer to a question from 
home, alludes to some of the strange things which come 
under the observation of the Sisters : 

"March 2g, 1894. — It is very true that necromancy is much 
practiced in China, and it is often a great temptation to the 
Christians in times of difficulty, when they are anxious to know 
what is likely to happen. . . . Not only where people are, but 
where they have been and what they have done, is often very 
correctly told. With newly-baptized Christians, it is most com- 
mon for the devil to appear to them and try to terrify them. 
For a long time I thought it imagination, but it seems to be true. 
A woman who died in the hospital last week was tormented, or 
rather frightened, several nights, until she was protected with 
medals. One queer illness I have often met with outside, but 
never have had a case inside the hospital. They declare that the 
devil comes to them every night and makes them eat all kinds of 
horrible things. The poor creatures certainly eat next to nothing 
during the day, look terrified to death, waste away and die. 
I should like to have such a case, to see what it really is. . . ,•' 

The Chino- Japanese war, with its consequences of 
heavy taxation and depressed commerce, brought great 
suffering to the Chinese of Ning-Po. 

" We know not what to do," writes Sister Xavier (January 3, 
1895), " to relieve the large number of poor infirm creatures who 
are thrown on our hands. Rice is so dear ! One paralyzed girl, 
with a rope around her neck, was being dragged to be drowned 
in a canal. She was rescued and brought here by a Christian. . . . 
We have nowhere to put the women. It is a terrible thing to be 

A Sister of Charity in China 35 

obliged to refuse them admittance. . . . Let us hope that Provi- 
dence will come to our aid. It would not cost much to erect 
what is absolutely necessary in the way of accommodation. . . ." 

The distresses of war quickened into yet greater 
activity the inventive charity of Sister Xavier. She was 
already helping the women and girls, and now her 
thoughts were for the boys. 

"Jan. 20, iSgS- — It is impossible to tell you the comfort it is to 
be able to give work to these people, or how thankful they are 
to get it. It is the poor boys who are going to the bad, simply 
because there is no helping hand to put them in a position to 
earn their living. If we could get together means to put up a 
few looms, it would be a small beginning, which could by de- 
grees develop itself. We would like to begin with the satin- 
making. It is the trade of the place; and satin, if not sold in 
China, can always be sold elsewhere; so results are speedy and 
sure. Perhaps St. Joseph, who knew what it was to face great 
poverty, will take the matter in hand, and send us enough to 
make a tiny start." 

" Ning-Po, Feb. ig, 1895. — Our former doctor has been sent to 
attend a large hospital of Chinese wounded at Ninchang. The 
bandages must all be broad, as most of the wounds are said to 
be on the backs of the soldiers. Our Sisters have a hospital at a 
place about six days' journey from Tientsin." 

" Here there have been disturbances caused by the soldiery 
passing through the town. They wanted to break into the Sisters' 
house and to search it, saying that European soldiers were hid- 
den inside. The authorities, however, behaved very well, and with 
great energy scattered the mob and placed guards in front of the 
house. . . . Since then we hear that disturbances have broken 

36 A Sister of Charity in China 

out again; and it was thought wiser to send to Tientsin six 
Sisters, most of whom are young and have not been long in 
China. . . . We are anxiously waiting to hear of their arrival at 
Tientsin; for a six days' journey in carts and barques, across a 
country overrun by a wild and undisciplined soldiery, is rather 

" The people here are as quiet and as steady-going as usual, 
though they have no commerce and everything is very dear. 
In consequence, we receive many presents of children; and we 
hope that the much-needed establishment for boys may soon be 
started. ..." 

" Ning-Po {or rather Afloat), April 17, iSg^. . . . To-day news 
comes that peace is at last made, thank God ! Our Sisters' hos- 
pital at Tientsin is full of Chinese soldiers, and they have estab- 
ished an ambulance. The Protestants have done the same 
The Chinese had made no preparations for the wounded, and some 
who have arrived at Tientsin were hurt a month ago." 

Cholera followed in the wake of war ; and the calm and 
equable pen which has narrated the dangers incurred from 
fanaticism, fire and sword, describes the new infliction.: 

" Ning-Po (Afloat), Aug. 26, 1893. — Here there has been a 
cholera panic, — a great many cases, most of them bad ones ; 
but not a regular epidemic as at Shanghai, where seventeen hun- 
dred natives died daily during several days. Many Europeans 
also fell victims ; and among the Auxiliatrice Sisters, five died 
within twenty-four hours. Providence has watched well over 
the Sisters of Charity; surrounded as they are by the dead and 
dying, not one has taken it, nor a missionary either. The weather 

A Sister of Charity in China 37 

has improved, and the cases are now diminishing, and prove less 
fatal. . . ." 

"A sad affair has happened at Fokien, — the massacre of five 
women, four children, and one man. The Consul was talking 
about it a couple of days ago, and told me the English Consul 
at Fouchou had warned them repeatedly not to go to that place. 
He could understand their running the risk if it was necessary 
for the accomplishment of their work; but it was not wise of 
them to go as they did, for mere pleasure and fresh air; and so 
it proved. The Consul says that unless the cannons are heard, 
and something striking is done to show that Europeans are not to 
be touched, there never will be peace in China. All these com- 
missions end in nothing, and the Chinese laugh at them. Near 
Canton, a missionary took another line of action. When he and 
his Christians were attacked, they all collected in the church and 
presbytery — a ' walled-in ' compound, — got hold of firearms and 
ammunition, and stood a week's siege." 

" Here at Ning-Po the people are perfectly quiet : not a 
rumor in the city, li there was anything, we should hear of it 
through the Christians quicker than anybody else ; for now 
they are very numerous and always on the lookout." 

In September Sister Xavier writes that her new hospital 
is now in working order. 

" Such a nice one, — a great contrast to my former barn, 
which was unhealthy to a degree, and much too small. . . . God 
is certainly blessing the work in the Tche-Ki-ang; you would be 
surprised how all is changed even in the few years that I have 
been in China. The embroidery is going on very well ; we have 

§8 A Sister of Charity in China 

just sent a large box to England. If we had funds we would 
start g, place to make better satin than we can buy in Ning-Po. 
It would soon pay its way, and would employ and train many 
hands. ..." 

" October i, i8g^. . . . We have good news of conversions in 
the Taitchou. One thousand new catechumens at the central 
church appeared for the Feast of the Assumption, — a nice offering 
to Our Lady. There are two very energetic young priests in 
that district, — a European and a native. Their last capture was 
the captain of a band of thieves, who brought over all his men. 
It will be curious to know the result. Piracy there is a lucrative 
and a very common profession. ..." 

The letters of November give news of fresh chapel- 
burning by the bonzes near Chusan, — speedily checked 
by the appearance of two men-of-war ; of the death of 
another zealous and overworked priest ; and of the ordi- 
nation of some young Chinese priests after a training of 
fourteen years. 

" They are all promising and full of zeal, but not very healthy," 
writes Sister Xavier. " Study is a dreadful strain on a China- 
man, though some of them are very clever." She adds regret- 
fully that they " do but replace the six missionaries who have 
died since I came here — four years ago. One is dying now, in 
great part from overwork. He had a huge district, numbers of 
catechumens, and he went preaching, instructing, and vomiting 
blood, until he brought himself to his present condition. ... In 
some districts it is killing work, as the catechumens have increased 
so rapidly, and everything depends upon their being well in- 
structed. Whole villages in the Taitchou have begged for instruc- 

A Sister of Charity in China 39 

tion. In one place they have given over the pagoda to make a 
chapel, smashing the idols themselves. They are very much in 
earnest, and certainly have obtained the grace of conversion in 
an extraordinary way. . . . They are, as a rule, good, simple, 
hard-working countrypeople, and will in time make excellent 
Christians. But God must send priests to the rescue, and no 
doubt He will in His own good time." 

One of the greatest blows which can fall upon a com- 
munity — the loss of a beloved superior — occurred before 
the end of this eventful year ; and on November 21, 1895, 
Sister Xavier, in announcing the apoplectic stroke which 
had seized '' our good superior, Sister Saloniac," adds her 
simple panegyric : 

" Over twenty years superior here, only fifty-six years of age, 
she was full of life, most energetic in visiting the poor and in 
making baptism expeditions ; in fact, it was going out on a bitterly 
cold day that gave her violent bronchitis, which we fear accele- 
rated the attack. She dropped quite suddenly when dressing, 
without there being a symptom before. . . . Her work seemed 
accomplished, so her Nunc Dimittis is sung; but it is so sad to 
see her lying there, not knowing any one. . . . We are so short of 
hands, but God knows what He is doing. Three Sisters arrive 
at Shanghai this week, — a French, a German, and an English one. 
But what is that to fill up the vacancies caused by death and 
sickness? Besides, a new house is to be founded at Kiang- 
Si. . . . The house is built; the people and the missionaries are 
calling out for the Sisters. They can hardly be kept waiting any 

40 A Sister of Chanty in China 

The satin-making scheme for the boys is slowly being 
realized. Three or four have been apprenticed; and the 
eldest, remarks Sister Xavier, with justifiable pride, 
''already works better than his master/' A welcome gift 
of five pounds is invested in two cotton-beating machines, 
worked by the feet ; and this is her plan : 

" We will get a couple of youths to work the machines, to earn 
enough (about from twenty to twenty-five dollars) to buy 
themselves one each, with which they will return to their vil- 
lage; and be replaced by other boys, who will do the same. 
Thus little by little various families will be helped; for when 
they have a cotton machine, a good living can be earned ; it is an 
excellent though very tiring trade. A few little five-pound notes 
do turn out very useful, don't they?" 

Early in the year 1896, Sister Xavier's letters tell of 
hard work, of cholera, and at the same time of remarkable 
success : 

" This is one of the most important houses in the province, 
having usually four hundred souls within its walls, and two hun- 
dred more outside dependent on it. At Pekin the Sisters have 
over eleven hundred souls to look after and to feed. At Kiu- 
Kiang we have for a considerable time been compelled to refuse 
to receive children for want of room. It is terribly sad not to 
be able to take children into the houses. . . . We have had rather 
a trying time. Three Sisters ill ; a young one very bad with 
fever. Imagine, she went up to I07/^, and continually to 105. 
Now, Deo gratias, she is out of danger, but very weak. This 

A Sister of Charity in China 


letter is being partly scribbled by her bedside. Next month 
we hope for our new superior. She will indeed be welcome, 
we are so short of hands." 


" April IS, 1896. — We had such crowds for Easter, — a very con- 
soling sight, as it shows how religion is spreading. . . . And com- 
ing here is such a difficulty, especially for the women, with their 
small feet. Some have to spend several days and nights in boats." 

42 A Sister of Charity in China 

" Another example of the results of that dreadful foot-binding 
was brought to us last Friday: a little girl of ten with both feet 
dropping off. All we had to do was to cut the tendons, etc., and 
the feet dropped off, and she is left with two stumps. When 
healed over, she will perhaps be able to get about with two wooden 
feet. Several of our cripples inside do. They bind the feet so 
tight, it stops all circulation, often breaks them at the instep so 
that they are quite doubled up; and they use terribly hot water 
to soften the feet for all these purposes. Our Holy Infancy 
children do not have their feet bound, but the extern pupils do; 
and it is quite an undertaking. At Sister Foubert's, at Kiu- 
Kiang, all the orphans have to have small feet, as otherwise 
husbands could not be got for them." 

Letters reporting how chapels in the Southern Kiang-Si 
are destroyed almost as soon as they are put up, converts 
cast into prison on the most flimsy pretexts, and how even 
*' perils from false brethren " are not unknown, alternate 
with glad accounts of the Chinese Christian virgins who 
four years previously had entered upon their religious 
life, and who now, having made their vows, are going out 
in bands to different mission centers as schoolmistresses 
and catechists ; " and they are terribly needed " to instruct 
the women. 

So great an influence does the Chinese woman possess 
when once, after the novitiate of suffering and slavery of 
her early life, she has given birth to a son, and is the 
mistress of the house, that — 

" If she becomes a Christian," writes Sister Xavier, " she gen- 
erally draws after her the husband and children; but if the man 

A Sister of Charity in China 43 

comes first, he often remains a tepid kind of creature, and the 
home is pagan. , . . The missionary (in the Taitchou district), a 
very energetic young man, has the greatest faith in the influence 
of the women, and will not baptize a man unless the woman is 
also a Christian, to keep the home and the husband straight. . . . 
It is extraordinary what influence the Chinese woman can often 
exert, where everything is done to lower her. She is sold 
almost like a beast to her husband, who has the right to resell 
her, though it is considered an ugly thing to do. She has not 
even a name, but is called by the name of her son — Lipa-am 
('Lipa's mother')- When bought as little girls . . . they are 
considered and treated as slaves ; and very, very frequently they 
die of bad treatment, are tossed into the canals or thrown out of 
the house when reduced to the last extremity. . . ." 

" To-day one of our girls was married, her husband paying 
twenty dollars for her. Among the Christians they are not 
allowed to pay more than fifty dollars, which must be spent on the 
trousseau, to break them of this idea of selling. . . . Some of our 
children turn out really well ; though this early married life, 
surrounded by pagans, is full of difficulties. The other night, 
returning rather late from a distant village, it was quite dark, 
when far along the river we could hear the Ave Maria being 
chanted. On coming up to a little fishing-boat moored to the 
bank, we found that it was one of our girls and her husband 
deep in their Rosary, and quite heedless of passing pagan 
boats. . . . One thing all fairly good Chinese have is great devo- 
tion to Our Lady, and I think that she gets them to heaven in 
spite of their faults. . . ." 

"November 16, i8g6. . . . We have a French man-of-war here 
on her way to the Taitchou, where one of our chapels' — a former 

44 A Sister of Charity in China 

pagoda — has been burned, and where a mandarin is making him- 
self most objectionable. Our new house in the Kiang-Si is doing 
so well ! The people are most sympathetic and kind. A refuge 
for lepers, who are very numerous there, is being begun. That 
disease is comparatively rare here. I have seen only three or 
four cases. . . ." 

"November 25, 1896. — There is little news to give you: one 
day is so like another, with hardly ever a breathing moment. 
We are in much need of two more Sisters to get through the 
work properly; but it is difficult to secure them from Europe, 
and Chinese vocations are comparatively few. To have to learn 
French and to be ready to go to any part of China is a great deal 
for Chinese girls to face. . . . What suits them best seems to be 
their Chinese orders ; they are local affairs, attached to one 
vicariate and under its bishop. . . ." 

The fields whitening more and more for the harvest, 
and the number of the laborers, alas ! so few, is the con- 
stant theme of the letters, as the wonderful workings of 
grace unfold themselves before the writer's eyes : 

" You know that Tche-Kiang has a population of about twenty- 
four millions — and hardly a priest for a million of people ! For 
one is now dying on the other side of the road; and two others 
are terribly delicate, but they work away still. The seven young 
priests ordained last year are a Godsend, though they only fill 
up the gaps made by death : they do not increase the number of 

" I am sending you by this mail a sketch drawn up by the 
Bishop. ... So many Europeans haye the same opinion of the 


A Sister of Charity in China 45 

Chinese, formed from the ' port ' specimens they meet, and the 
double-faced mandarins who so often are too sharp for them. 
This opinion is far from correct with regard to the mass of the 
people, who, away from the ports, live their simple lives much 
the same as the countryfolk and small countrytown people do at 
home. Even here the difference between the Ning-Po and the 
village people is striking, and farther away it is still more so." 

" There is a third part to this sketch, ' The Hopes of the Fu- 
ture ', — which I will send later on. I should like to have it 
translated and printed; it might open the eyes of some to what 
China really is, and God might use it to awaken some vocation 
for the Chinese missions. ... I am enclosing an account of our 
work during the past year. You will see the baptisms used to be 
between three and four thousand annually. This last year not 
quite two thousand. God send us Sisters, and quickly! . . ." 

"Up in the north of the province (Taitchou) there is more 
trouble, about a silly quarrel in which a Christian fought a man 
who refused to pay him a couple of dollars he owed. He was 
seized by the mandarin, marched through the town with the 
kang on his neck and the inscription, ' This is the way in which 
we shall treat all Christians.' He was thrown into prison where 
he still lies. A Chinese prison is something awful. The satel- 
lites receive no pay worth speaking of, so they torture the pris- 
oners — hang them up by their thumbs, and will not release them 
until bit by bit, they make them sign away to the executioners 
their house, land, — in fact, everything they possess. Continually 
there are affairs like this going on. . . . The Christians have a 
great deal to put up with, and they must feel that they have 
European protection to be able to endure it. . . ." 

"December 16, 1896. — In the boat to-day I have been able to 

46 A Sister of Charity in China 

read the manuscript I am sending. ... It gives an idea of what 
has been done during the last few years ; for formerly there were 
hardly any Christians in the Tche-Kiang : they had been quite 
annihilated during one of the persecutions, and flourishing Chris- 
tian centers had entirely disappeared. During the Sisters' first 
year, there were in all Xing-Po only two Christian families — 
the Chus and the Oiis. And it was much the same all through 
the district. Even ten years ago it was a very barren land, cate- 
chumens few and far between. God has blessed the work at 
last, has He not? If He would only send more laborers! But 
of course He iv'/// in His own good time. . . ." 

"June 10, 1897. — The cheque arrived most opportunely when all 
the purses had run dry. . . . We are generally in low water in 
June and July, as the allocations of the Society for the Propaga- 
tion of the Faith and the Holy Childhood reach us only in' 
August, and they hardly last until the end of April. After that 
we live on bits and scraps — /. e., casual donations. The works 
have doubled and trebled. ... In time perhaps the children's 
earnings will do something toward meeting the expenses of the 
house. . . ." 

"' Among our day scholars, a girl who has lately come proves a 
little of what I told you about women. Her father, a pagan, was 
taken ill. about three months ago. Tchingvong instructed him in 
the principal articles of faith; taught her mother (a new and not 
very bright Christian) how to baptize, and made her administer 
the sacrament when she saw there was no hope. They are the 
only Christians in their little village. The mother then caught 
the same illness. Tching\-ong instructed her for confession, her 
First Communion and Confirmation, and brought her here, where 
she received all before she died. . . ." 

A Sister of Charity in China 47 

■■ Xmg-Po, April ij, i8gS. — It is very strange people do not see 
at once tire ab-yc^iitg necessity of English-speaking priests in China 
at the present time. In the ports the souls ol Europeans are go- 
ing to destruction for want of them; in the missions it will be the 
great means to prevent a civil war, or something like it. between 
Protestant and Catholic natives. The tension between them is 
terrible, and will go on increasing. . . . The presence of an Eng- 
lish-speaking priest would do much to settle matters. . . ." 

'' Xing-Po, April 22, i8gS. — Here the great tide of conversion 
is going on in the most extraordinary way, — ever on the increase 
even in money-worshiping Xing-Po. People are continually ask- 
ing us what steps they can take to become Christians. Among 
all classes it is the subject of the day. A catechist was telling 
me how. to his intense astonishment, every one in the country, 
rich and poor, is inquiring about Christianity. Oh, if we only 
had priests at the present moment, they would need simply to 
speak and all would believe! . . ." 

■■ Sister Germaine found one woman almost speechless. She 
murmured that for two months she had been asking her neigh- 
bors to carry her to the hospital, but they would not. Sister 
Germaine told her the absolutely necessary truths ; and. more by 
signs than words, the poor creature declared that she believed, 
and began mbbii^ her forehead- Thinking she was in pain. 
Sister did something for her reliel 'No,' muttered the dying 
woman : ' baptism, baptism I' Sister then made the woman who 
accompanied her ask again if she really believed, and wished to 
become a Christian. "' Yes ; tell the Sister to baptize me quickly,* 
was the answer. This was done; and soon from that hovel, 
where the poor inmate was dpng as much from want and misery 
as from illness, went forth a bright soul heavenward- What an 
exchange V " 

48 A Sister of Charity in China 


Nearly all" the Chinese missions are French, and the 
lack of English-speaking priests mentioned in Sister 
Xavier's letter of April 15, is once more insisted upon: 

" April 24, 1898. — The Bishop is craving for priests. You know 
all the open ports are reall}^ English in tone, language, and every- 
thing else; to meet this, a sprinkling of English-speaking priests 
all through China is what is required. ... I had another proof 
to-day of how much an English priest is needed in this small 
port, — how much greater must the need be in the large ones ! It 
was an affair of some importance, in which the Catholic mission 
ought to join with the other Europeans to prevent trouble. No 
one connected with the business could speak French; word was 
sent into the city to ask me to go to the settlement and explain 
the affair to the Fathers. . . . These are temporal matters : what 
about the spiritual ones in some ports where there are so many 
Catholics ! . . ." 

" It is extraordinary how the spirit has changed during the 
last three years. We cannot go out without being ques- 
tioned on religion. . . .On all sides the great topic among the 
people and even among the scholars is religion. All we want is 
priests. God grant they may soon come !'' 

An instance of the new spirit abroad in Ning-Po is 
given in the account (dated October y, 1898) of the pres- 
ence in state of the Tao-fai and all the mandarins at the 
consecration of Bishop Ferrant. 

" One result is that a mandarin, the general of the troops in 
Ning-po and the neighboring towns, with all his family, spent the 

A Sister of Charity in China 49 

afternoon with us yesterday. We had made his acquaintance 
when we were called in to doctor his wife's teeth ; so we invited 
him to the consecration, and asked him to call and see our 
house. This he did, and he was so delighted that he returned 
with all his family. As they never leave the yamens, they were 
enchanted, and marvelled at all they saw. The Tai-tai is a very 
intelligent woman, so are her daughters and her daughter-in- 
law. . . . Chinese women as a rule, if properly educated, would 
be very superior. . . ." 

The same letter speaks of the supposed murder of the 
young Emperor: 

" There are sad doings at Pekin. The report of the Emperor's 
murder, though contradicted, is still firmly believed. He was 
making such reforms, — in fact, overthrowing paganism with one 
blow by handing over the non-imperial pagodas for educational 
purposes, and sending all the bonzes to the big central monaste- 

" October 11, 1898. — We are passing through a series of changes. 
For one month reforms were going on apace : yamens being over- 
thrown, pagodas and bonzeries offered to the missionaries to turn 
into colleges, etc., etc. Then came the Emperor's death, and 
everything was revoked, awaiting further changes. All are now 
in expectation of what is going to happen. It is extraordinary 
how quickly news is known through the city. When the riot 
took place at Shanghai it was known among the people while it 
was still going on, — before the Europeans on the Concession had 
got the telegrams." 

The following year saw the great work of the industries 
for Christian and pagan boys in good progress, — bringing 

50 A Sister of Charity in China 

the latter and their famiHes into continual contact with 
the Sisters, and overthrowing all prejudice. There is a 
pretty picture in a letter of March, 1899, of the good done 
among the girls and boys. 

" Many homes outside are entirely kept by the work they get 
from us. In some cases they would be actually starving except 
for this, — women are so badly paid, as a rule. One sees these 
poor girls sitting at their doors — or, when there is a big piece to 
be done, several together in the courts of their little houses, — 
working away, hardly lifting their eyes; yet seeming very happy 
over their work, for it means so much to them. It raises their 
position. A breadwinner is a person to be considered and re- 
spected; even in matrimonial arrangements it has its weight, and 
wins for a girl a better match. If 3-0U could but hear them in 
the workroom after the day's labor is over, — the noise and almost 
screams of laughter of all those young people ! It makes one 
thankful that they have some happy days in their otherwise very 
dark lives." 

This is Sister Xavier's account of the boys : 
" There seems to be a real blessing on our little weavers. . . . 
We picked out the children in the greatest peril, — some poor little 
men with very doubtful characters. But the result is more than 
we could have hoped for. These small boys, who were on the 
high road to becom.e a disgrace to society at large, are now 
perched by their looms, as serious as judges, working like little 
men, and doing so well. It is true, the work once over, they are 
regular little diahles for noise and pranks. But they are practical 
in their way, all the same ; and duly informed the priest that if in 
the evenings they were taught reading, writing, and ciphering, 
they would keep quiet and enjoy it, as then they would be able 

A Sister of Charity in China 


to become master-workmen, and not be cheated. Their evening 
education is, therefore, going to begin, — rather to the relief of 
the rest of the establishment. . . . After work is over all kneel 
down in the shop and chant their night prayers, pagans of their 
own free will joining with the Christians. . . ." 


" Chinese children are most winning, warm-hearted, truthful, 
and honest. They grow up such hard-hearted liars and thieves 
because they are taught, trained, even punished to make them tell 
lies and be ' sharp.' . . . This kind of work among the outside 
poor, to preserve our own youth and assist the pagans, had not 
yet been tried; and if we succeed here, it will doubtless extend 
elsewhere, and be the means of saving numberless souls, besides 
forming happier and more prospea-ous families. Get many 

52 A Sister of Charity in China 

prayers for these works, and also for more missionary vocations. 
I forgot to tell you the apprentices are paid as soon as they can 
earn ; thus when their apprenticeship is over they have a little 
sum in the bank (for the money is not given into their hands) to 
start life with, unless the poverty of their families requires it 

In 1900 the Boxer rebellion, and the murder of the Ger- 
man Ambassador at Pekin, filled the whole world with 
dismay. Sister Xavier writes ( 25) : 

" The anxiety and suspense are now intense. All fear that the 
silence will be broken by the account of some fearful catastrophe. 
. . . Our largest house m Pekin is next to the cathedral, and has 
over one thousand inmates, not including a large number of 
refugees. It is a great comfort to feel that all is in God's hands, 
and nothing will happen except what He permits. May all turn 
out for His greater glory and the conversion of this unfortunate 
people ! . . . For over a month our Sisters in the North have 
been fully expecting and preparing for a violent death. Mgr. 
Favier, Bishop of the Northern province, warned all the foreign 
ministers of the terrible rebellion that was brewing, but none of 
them would believe him until it was too late. . . ." 

The heroic defence by a mere handful of French and 
Italian sailors of the Catholic Mission in Pekin is matter 
of history. Sister Xavier writes: 

" Only on September 2 came the first authoritative account of 
the missionaries and Sisters in Pekin. Eight missionaries dead 
(two massacred, several burned in their churches), two Marist 
Brothers, and dear old Sister Jaurias. During the siege she was 

A Sister of Charity in China 53 

the heart and soul of the establishment, going about cheering 
and encouraging, in spite of being close on eighty years, — forty- 
five years in China. Everything was done to destroy the orphan 
asylum, — arrows of fire, bombardment, and mines. These last, at 
one explosion, killed seventy people, among them all the little 
ones in the creche. . . . The day the allies entered, Sister Jaiirias 
broke down, . . . and expired peacefully on August 22. ... A 
beautiful end to a beautiful life." 

" It is really miraculous that during the two months' siege not 
a Sister was wounded or killed. ... At the hospital, which is 
near the legations, the Sisters were still there on July 16, having 
refused to leave their house, crowded with refugees. At two 
o'clock next morning some men from the legation rushed in and 
compelled them to leave. An hour later the Boxers invaded the 
house, bringing carts to carry off the Sisters. Like wild beasts 
they rushed over the place, yelling out for the nine Europr-ans ; 
they fell on their knees, offering incense, imploring that they 
should be delivered into their hands, to be taken to the pagoda 
for execution. At last, disappointed in their hopes, they fell upon 
the Christians in the house, and murdered every one except two 
servants, who escaped to tell the sad tale. One young aspirant, 
seeing herself in the hands of these wretches, sprang into the 
flames and expired kneeling. Two virgins who assisted the 
Sisters were flayed alive, etc., etc. Certainly China has a gloriou.s 
band of martyrs this year. May they draw down God's ble.s.sing 
on this unfortunate people !" 

Between fifteen and twenty thousand was the number 
of the martyrs ; " for scarcely one apostatized," writes 
Mgr. Favier in his first letter from Pekin after the sieg-e, 
"we are twentv-seven thousand Christians instead of 

54 A Sister of Charity in China 

forty-seven thousand. I venture to predict that within 
five years we shall number fifty thousand." 

" We are sending you a souvenir of the siege of the Peitang 
[JPekin] in the shape of small cannon balls," says Sister Xavier 
in a letter dated June 13, 1901, — " two of the thousands that were 
fired into the asylum. They must remind you of the special 
Providence that watched over and guarded all the Sisters in 
China. Last year six houses were in imminent peril, three 
burned to the ground, the Pekin asylum battered to pieces ; but 
not a single Sister met a violent death, though during the siege 
the sight of a cornette was a sign for a volley of bullets from 
the Boxers. An altar was promised to the Sacred Heart, if no 
Sister was killed; and it has just been erected at the central 
house. The columns -on each side of the statue, and those sup- 
porting it, are made of balls fired into the Pekin asylum." 

Here we must bring these extracts to a close. Crushed 
but not broken, strengthened by adversity, the works of 
the Sisters of Charity revived after the passing of the 
storm. In May, 1903, Sister Xavier went to England to 
make known her wants. The cry is still for vocations, — 
for help to carry on the work, a cry that is heard from all 
missions throughout the world. May it find an echo in 
many hearts and prove an incentive to American Catholics, 
to give a generous support to the Society for the 
Propagation of the Faith. 

MAY 31 1905 



so6ety for the propagation 
( of the faith 


•j ^^ ^^ 6^* 6^^ 

1. To offer for the intentions of the Society the 
''Our Father" and *'Hail Mary" of the morning- or 
evening prayers, adding: the invocation, "St. Francis 
Xavier, pray for us." 

2. To give an Alms for the Missions. 


;. ORDINARY MEMBERS contribute five cents every month 
or sixty cents a year. 

2. SPECIAL MEMBERS contribute six dollars a year, repre- 
senting the sum collected in a band of ten associates. 

5. PERPETUAL MEMBERS contribute at one time a sum of 
money not less than $40.00, and are thereafter enrolled in 

Catholics of any age may join the Society. 
DECEASED PERSONS may also be enrolled by their friends as 
ordinary, special or perpetual members. 

OVER 10,000 MASSES are offered every year by the missionary 
priests for the living and dead associates. 

members of the Society.